Eight More in '94: The Republican Takeover of the Senate
In the words of several media commentators, the stunning Republican success in the 1994 midterm elections had the disruptive and shocking force of a "meteorite," an "earthquake," a "tectonic shift," a "tsunami," a "deluge," even a "neutron bomb." 1 The reach of the partisan landslide that on November 8 shook the political landscape was largely unexpected; it created the conditions for important transformations in the internal organization of the 104th Congress and a radical reorientation of the legislative agenda. Although most prognosticators anticipated changes in Senate membership, the Republicans' takeover of the House, after an unprecedented four decades in the minority, appeared to be a cosmic event that broke the gravitational pull of Democratic control and eclipsed other aspects of the midterm elections. In the "historic power shift" of 1994, the outcome of the Senate elections was but one wave of the Republican tide washing many Democrats from state and national offices.
In an election year in which the slogan "Cut their pay and send them home" seemed to capture effectively the public's discontent and dissatisfaction with the performance of Congress, with the operation and the size of the federal government, and with the behavior of career politicians, 2 the midterm vote was expected to be driven by the desire for political change and to challenge the reelection prospects of several incumbents. In its spring preview of the 1994 campaigns, the Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report asked "whether the buds of anger and frustration that burst into bloom in 1992 were annuals, limited to a single season of glory, or perennials that will return again this election season" ( Connolly 1994: 937). On election day, voters' unrest did translate into change, albeit of a different nature from that of two years before. Although the 1992 congressional elections "departed dramatically from recent historical patterns" by combining very large membership turnover (through retirement and incumbent defeat) with a quite modest partisan change ( Jacobson 1993b: 153), the 1994 midterm elections delivered a radical, across-the-board partisan readjustment, coupled with significant membership replacement. Republican candidates scored impressive gains in national, state, and local contests, and for the first time since 1954, the GOP gained control of both chambers of Congress; not since 1948 had a Democratic president shared power with a Republican Congress.